Eric OneKey’s Recent Show

His Universe and Lane

Photo by Judith Kaine

I did not want to start with a negative connotation, but here we go: Eric Onekye’s show started awfully late — an hour late to be exact — and the sound system was below average, but the set-up and the location (the new Onomo Hotel) were captivating enough.

Now the good and important part.

Eric started off with a sort of dialogue, nothing poetical but a monologue whose purpose was to point out the hustle, of being in a creative industry, that many people seem not to understand. He explained how important it is and why audiences have to pay for what they consume.

Then Eric proceeded with what he called “The Story of My Names.” In it, he took us on a journey that started with his roots; how it felt to grow up in Goma, Eastern D.R.C., being half Congolese half Rwandan; and, as the situation degraded (Eric separated with his parents at a young age), how he lived with his aunt and had to deal with issues of identity. All through, Eric had to change his official names more than three times.

For some of us who went through such an identity crisis at a young age, although I didn’t face exile, I could relate to everything he was saying and I envied his courage to share that journey with an audience, although it looked like they couldn’t comprehend exactly what he was saying.

At the peak of his career as an “ad-man,” like he likes to call it, he was not satisfied with the impact of his work. He describes it as selling unimportant items to people who don’t need them, so he went on to become a full-time artist. He pointed out vividly that contrary to what people think he is (a poet) he is way more than that. Because he couldn’t care less about labels.

Near the end of the show, Eric performed a sensual piece into which he called a volunteer on stage to take him on a seduction and sexual journey. Fascinating enough, the volunteer was a man.

The entrance to the show, which took place on Saturday, 25 August, was not free. It was advertised that one needs to pay ten thousand Rwandan francs via Mobile Money in order to attend. Despite his advocacy for artists pay, Eric has never made it hard for people who did not pay to attend his shows. There was no one to collect money at the entrance. And it was broadcast live on YouTube.

Eric closed the show ended on a piece he dedicated to Ugandan M.P. and political activist Bobi Wine and all those who are not afraid to voice their opinions despite the dangers that come with opposing those in power.

I visited Eric at his home, a few weeks before the show, to explore his universe. I asked him if he’s not worried that things not might turn out like he expected. “You have to be ready, and care less about things you can’t control,” he told me. “When they finally wake up and decide to listen, we’ll be ready to deliver.”

He’s an artist like no other I have seen.

A few days before the show, on 6 August, Eric tweeted his plan to move to another African country “for a while.” He said, “Rwanda, I’ve overpaid my dues. Deuces!”

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